Daily iPad app: Converse

A few weeks ago I wrote about tips while traveling with your iPad. Today I want to tell you about an app that might be useful for those traveling to other countries where they don’t speak the native language. Or, it might be useful once it gets fleshed out a little more. The idea behind Converse is great. It’s an app which allows you to IM a foreign speaker face to face using a split-screen dual keyboard layout.

Each user can select their language and type messages to the other. Those messages are then displayed on the receiver’s side of the iPad app, translated into their native tongue.

As I said, the idea is a good one, but the app as it is right now is somewhat limiting. For example users can only choose from seven languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Dutch.

But what’s more frustrating is that the translations are almost word for word and don’t take syntax into account. That means your translated message might read like a two year old wrote it. Furthermore, the iPad app requires an Internet connection to work, which means if you’re standing on the side of the road in Porto desperately trying to find where the next train to Lisbon is, Converse is going to be no help in asking your question to someone who doesn’t speak the language. Another issue: Converse has no way of entering numbers, which are universal, so you have to spell them out and that takes more time to type (and due to the lack of syntax can add to some confusion).

I write about this app because I think if the developer flushes out some bugs, works on syntax, and integrating dictionaries into it so it doesn’t require an Internet connection, it’ll be a good one to have while traveling. Also, if the dev can find out a way to make it an iPhone app that would be great, though admittedly it might be hard to fit two keyboards on an iPhone’s screen at the same time and remain usable.

Converse is US$4.99 in the App Store.

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